It was a picture of Margarito, his gloves off and his hand wraps in plain view.
"Right after my fight," said Cotto, directing the image toward me.
"Is that suspicious or not?" he asked rhetorically. "You ever see a hand wrap break on itself?"
Now I’m not exactly Joe Chavez as it relates to this matter. Honestly, I couldn’t give an educated opinion one way or the other. I asked Cotto, "What did you think?" to which he replied, "It’s just some gauze with no tape over the knuckles. It’s not supposed to break."
So yeah, he’s not just suspicious; he seems downright convinced something illicit took place on that night he suffered his first professional defeat. So did he feel anything unusual on that night from the hands of Margarito?" I didn’t feel anything," Cotto explained. "With adrenaline, all the things involved in the fight, I didn’t feel anything but my face doesn’t present that."
When asked by another reporter, Lance Pugmire of the L.A. Times who came around short bit later to elaborate on the photo, Cotto stated in his usual monotone cadence, "I’m just trying to present to you and you’re going to be the judge. You’re just going to tell what you think about it." However, he didn’t say that was the reason he necessarily lost, telling the gathered media, "No, I never complain. I never did anything about the fight, just accept my defeat like a man."
It’s clear that the central storyline in this fight will be of a man trying to get redemption against a foe that forever altered the arc of his career, the villainous cheater who some believe shouldn’t even be licensed to box and earn these multimillion-dollar paydays.
Margarito is indeed the black hat in this western.
"Oh, definitely, definitely," admitted his co-manager, Sergio Diaz. "From day one, when we got to Puerto Rico, New York, I felt it in New York a lot, Mexico- it was a lot better. They back up their fighter- Los Angeles, Cotto has a lot of fans out here. Actually, I was surprised. So Tony has to go up there and do his thing and beat Cotto."
In light of his lopsided loss to Manny Pacquiao last November when Margarito suffered a broken right eye socket, nearly ending his career- for a short spell, it did. "Tony actually retired. He called me and said, ’Sergio, I’m retiring. Let Bob Arum know.’ So he actually came out of retirement. That eye injury wasn’t good. We weren’t hearing what we wanted to hear [from the doctors]."
After going to an eye specialist in a last-ditch effort for answers at the behest of Bob Arum, they went through a procedure and were eventually given the green light to proceed.
"After the Pacquiao fight, I thought it was the end of my career," said Margarito, through his other co-manager, Francisco Espinoza, "but thanks to God, I’m back. I’m very excited, even more excited this time around to fight Cotto."
This fight wasn’t the easy to negotiate. There were the harsh feelings that Cotto had toward Margarito, first and foremost. Arum said flatly," He’s pissed at Margarito, didn’t want Margarito to make money off his back- simple as that." What did change things was an economic reality that was presented to him from the veteran promoter. "I turned him because I said, "Miguel, you’re going to make a lot of money from this fight. Let’s not talk nonsense."
Simply put, not only was this the best option, it was the only one.
"Absolutely. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me if [Cotto] made over $10 million," said Arum, who knows that in this sport, every fighter has a number that can change his mind. "This could very well be his biggest payday." When asked about his change of heart, Cotto explained, "What other names we have except Antonio, Floyd [Mayweather], Manny in boxing to face and make money?" (When someone mentioned Sergio Martinez, Cotto said incredulously to this person, "You think Sergio Martinez makes me money? Yeah?" It was about the only time he broke out a smile.)
A lot has happened since Cotto and Margarito first met, most notably they were both put through the meat grinder named Pacquiao. They aren’t not the same men they were three years go but you get the sense that if they fought a hundred times, you’d have a hundred wars. Now, this has gotten personal, which was clearly evident as they shared an icy staredown that was much more than your usual, run-of-the-mill photo-op. This is the grudge match of the year.
"I don’t see any changes," said Margarito, who kept his shades on for much of the press conference. "I’ve seen Miguel Cotto in the last three fights. He’s the same guy." When asked if he wanted to prove that their first match-up was on the up-and-up, Margarito stated, "I just can’t wait to throw a punch on Cotto so he can feel the power; then Cotto will realize it."
Cotto said of the time that’s passed, "I’m a more mature boxer, more focused on my work. I’ve had a better road than him."
The often introverted Puerto Rican claimed that this fight had no more significance than any other fight to him. "No, it’s the next chapter in my career. It’s another step and I’m going to take it with a lot of responsibility," he claimed. "A lot of things- good things- to be the winner December 3rd."
Cotto did however add that this rematch would, "just put clear a lot of things that people don’t have clear."
I don’t think there’s any doubt that December 3rd at the Garden will be one of the most heated, animosity-filled and spirited nights of boxing in the United States in 2011. This is no stale casino setting where the patrons have no real vested interest in the participants but an almost volatile setting in the newly renovated MSG, where Margarito goes into the lion’s den against a throng of partisans who want not only revenge but blood.
Women and children, stay home. Watch the ACC championship game or something but if you can handle some violence and mayhem, come to “The Most Famous Arena in the World” and enjoy the sanctioned savagery.
And expect a full house on that night in the “Big Apple.”
"65 percent of the tickets have been sold," said Arum, "and it ain’t no casinos buying tickets."
When asked why he wanted a catchweight for this fight despite being the WBA junior middleweight titlist, Cotto responded, "But why didn’t he say anything when he fought Pacquiao and Pacquiao made him make150? I just wanted 152. Forget about money; I’m going to put things my way, no matter what."
The fight has a weight limit of 153 pounds.
OK, don’t kill the messenger but this is what Arum had to say relating to a potential Pacquiao-Mayweather fight in 2012:
"Look, it has nothing to do with anything other than Floyd has to get his criminal situation resolved. All of you guys are missing that. If he doesn’t take a plea, which means jail time, then what’s going to happen clearly is that he’s going to go to that and if he’s convicted, he’ll get a minimum of three years. And then when he can fight, forget about Mayweather fighting Pacquiao or anybody else."
Good grief, Edwin Moses never had to clear so many hurdles.
The undercards for Top Rank’s two big pay-per-view cards on November 12th and December 3rd are starting to come together.
Carl Moretti of Top Rank says that on November 12th, "You got Mike Alvarado-Breidis Prescott and that’s the only one confirmed." There is a chance that world-rated 130-pounder Luis Cruz will open up this show. As for the bill at the Garden, Moretti says, "You’ll see Guillermo Rigondeaux-Rico Ramos (for the WBA bantamweight title) and most likely, Mike Jones and Sebastian Lujan and the third fight is to be determined."
Regarding the bout between Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland on Nov. 5th in Cancun, MX, attorney Mike Miller says, "It’s done." A middleweight clash between Peter Quillin and Marco Antonio Rubio is still a possibility to open up that HBO card...As for a potential 2012 spring clash between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Saul Alvarez, Arum said, “The status is that I talked to Chavez Tuesday night. He wants that fight, assuming he beats [Peter] Manfredo [Jr.]. The Manfredo bout is scheduled for November 19th.” Arum says that this fight could take place in April. Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions told me that while talks have started, this deal is far from done...Pawel Wolak and Mike Lee (who will move a significant amount of tickets) will be on the Garden show on Dec. 3rd...Told that the post-fight “24/7” for Mayweather-Ortiz (which is attached to the replay Saturday night on HBO) is “very, very interesting,” according to a good source...“Inside the NFL” on Showtime has the best chemistry of any studio show going...Is there any way Tony Romo takes the field for the Cowboys on Monday night?...The two college gridiron games I’m most looking forward to this weekend is Texas A&M vs. Okie State and LSU vs. West Virginia…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.